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tv   Book Discussion on The First Waco Horror  CSPAN  December 7, 2014 8:32pm-8:46pm EST

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joining our time warner cable partners to showcase the history of waco, texas. to learn more about the cities on our tour, visit we continue now with our look at the history of waco. this is american history tv on c-span3. >> it is hard to imagine an essentially modern-day town where our grandparents or great-grandparents could have lived -- it wasn't that long ago -- where something like this could take place. events spectacle lynchings. they took place mostly in the late 19th century and early 20th century. one of the interesting aspects of this horrendous lynching is that it didn't occur at some little backwoods village where everybody was poor and ignorant.
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it was in what the eastern chronicle called the cultured, reputable town of waco that was known for its many institutions of higher education, including baylor university and two black colleges. it had the neck name of the athens of texas because there were so many institutions of higher education. they had a lot of libraries. o always considered itself a little loftier, more civilized than other towns. thats particularly ironic in this prosperous, well-educated town, where so many of life's amenities, that this incident could happen. the story of the lynching of jesse washington in 1916 begins with the discovery of the body of lucy fryer, who was a farm woman. family had not been
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in the waco area for very long. they were itinerant farm laborers. it was not only jesse washington himself who was plowing the fields and working for them, but it was also his parents in a little shack on the friars property with some other children. was a younger brother, a teenager, and some small children. she was found at the door to the seed barn with her head bashed in. it looked like she'd been hit over the head really hard several times. her clothes were somewhat disheveled also. of course, they called the investigating officers immediately. they looked around and noticed jesse washington had been nearby all afternoon. the kids and mr. fryer were off farther away from the house. -- one examplem
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that might demonstrate the fact that he was mentally challenged is, he was upset at first when he was arrested. then he just went to sleep in the back of the police car, is what elizabeth freeman, was told. they took him to jail in waco but they realized the lynch mob might come after him there. so they took him on to the hillsborough jail and finally to the dallas jail. at every one of these locations, he was interrogated about the murder. they were trying to elicit a confession from him. -- we havesupposedly no way of knowing what actually happened during those interviews -- but allegedly, he finally told them where the weapon was. it was a blacksmith's hammer and it was hidden in some brush around the fields where he had been plowing. it did have some blood on it. it appeared that it was the
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murder weapon. the trial took place on may 15, 1916, one week after the murdered woman's body was found. it is hard to imagine a murder trial taking place that fast. to be much seem interested in doing any real investigation. he was dragged into the courtroom. he was said to be mentally challenged. they said they were never able to teach him to read or write. it seems very apparent that he had very little understanding of even what was going on in the courtroom. he wanted tom if plead guilty or not guilty and he mumbled something and just said, yeah. i don't think he quite knew what was happening. it must have been terrifying. this relatively small courtroom was full of about 2500 people. there were hundreds more filling the whole courthouse, milling
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around outside, climbing the trees. there were thousands of people in the area, all basically screaming for his blood. it was conducted much like a kangaroo court. there were six very young attorneys assigned to represent him. verywere all sons of wealthy families, guaranteed not to rock the boat. the only advice they offered him was to tell him that it looked bad and he should pray. one questionasked of a witness during the trial. the courtroom was so packed that the jury members had to be carried over the heads of other people in the courtroom and people had to be shooed out of their seats so they could be seated. it took less than an hour. the jury went out and came back in four minutes with a guilty verdict. the judge began to write, guilty , orcondemned to death
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condemned to punishment. he didn't even get to finish the word. they rose up and one young farmer climbed over everybody else and grabbed jesse led himton and hau down the back stairs and outside. they tore his clothes off and dragged him down to the town square. i think just about every man in waco tried to take some kind of potshot at him. they hit him with bricks and clubs and some people had knives. towne time they got to the square, he was already covered with blood. --one paper said, he became they said, let's hang him over the bridge like the last fellow. other voices said, no, that's not bad enough. he deserves something worse than that. it was all planned.
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the mayor and chief of police watched the whole thing from the mayor's second-floor office at city hall. they even had informed the most prominent commercial photographer in town to calm and set up his equipment ahead of time. kindling and other flammable materials had been stashed near the center of the town square. everyone knew what was going to happen. when he finally was dragged to the center of the square, they put a chain around his neck and through the chain over the branch of a tree. when he tried to pull the chain loose to breathe, they cut his fingers off. he was mutilated in many different ways. then they doused him in oil and started the fire at the base of a tree. they would put him down in the fire and then pull the chain and raise him up out of the fire so
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more people could see what was happening. every time they did that, a big cheer went up. one reporter said, i think the crowd had just come from a football game where they had won a huge victory. he was a very strong young man and it took him a wild to die. at one point, he kicked himself off the funeral pyre and they had to drag him back on. finally, all that was left was a charred torso and a head. someone came along on a white horse afterwards and dragged the remains around the street. the head fell off and was put on the doorstep of a prostitute. little boys pulled out the teeth and sold them for five dollars apiece. people were even fighting for links of the chain, for twigs from the tree, which was completely destroyed. to expressas heard great concern for what happened to the tree, but no concern for what happened to a 17-year-old
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boy. the day after this lynching, one of the newspapers said, yesterday is a closed incident. it was the purpose of the fledgling naacp to make sure that these stories were not andotten, to shame the town publicize it in every way possible. they sent in this young white women suffrage activist who was not educated, but had a lot of streetsmarts. she was very attractive and very charming. she used a british accent that she obtained from her time in england, where she had been arrested several times. she was attending a women's suffrage convention in dallas when the lynching took place. they sent her a telegram and asked her to go to waco and get all the facts, and the photographs if she could. she did and she made up this story that she had been
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texas and she knew people in waco and she wanted to write a story telling people that waco wasn't all that bad. nothing could have been further from the truth. the story worked. she got into see the mayor, the chief of police, the leading citizens of the black community, almost everybody who would give her information. she even convinced the commercial photographer to give her the pictures, even though he had already been ordered not to sell any more of them. she was afraid to put any of this material in the mail. she took a train to galveston, took a ship back to new york and carried all the material to give to w.e.b. dubois face-to-face, who was the towering african-american intellect of that period and also the editor of the naacp magazine. what he did was published the first ever special supplement to the monthly crisis magazine, all
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about this lynching. he used the pictures. they didn't just send it to members of the naacp. they sent it to every member of woodrow wilson's cabinet, to newspaper editors all over the country, and elizabeth herself went on a speaking tour to black churches around the country. i don't think she ever came back to texas. interestingly, the whole story of the jesse washington lynching blew up and was featured in the newspaper and on tv in waco twice while i was doing my research. i have to give waco credit for this. unlike many other communities that have never confronted or dealt with their horrible racial past, the waco city council and county commissioners did issue some sort of resolution of regret, if not a polity -- apology.
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a group of citizens came and stood on the steps of the courthouse on the 90th anniversary of the lynching and read a resolution. i feel very strongly that you can't understand the president -- the president if you don't know what happened in the past. these things cannot be forgotten. need to acknowledge it, understand it, and know what happened. >> throughout the weekend, american history tv is featuring waco, texas. we recently traveled there to learn about its rich history. learn more about waco and other stops on c-span's cities tour on you are watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. next, the council on foreign relations marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the berlin wall with a symposium .eaturing henry kissinger
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kissinger discusses the enduring surroundinge events the fall of the law and talks about our current relationship with russia and whether we are seeing a renewal of the cold war. this is about an hour. kissinger --henry to make a very long story short, ,enry is the preeminent scholar practitioner, of his era. and i would date the era essentially the post-world war ii era, which is another way of saying roughly over the last seventy years, i believe that henry combines scholarship, as well as ability to be effective in government. and when you add them up, i believe he stands apart from


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